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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

64                               THE GAY GENIUS

turned out to be Su Tungpo's best friend during his long years of
banishment at Huangchow.

Another "friend" Su Tungpo met, Chang Chun, was destined to
blight his later career. Chang Chun, who later became a vicious
political enemy, was then a young magistrate serving in a district near-
by in the same province. We have no record whether Mrs. Su had
advised him against Chang Chun, but the latter was brilliant) hearty,
of the type Su Tungpo liked. The story has often been told how Su
Tungpo predicted Chang Chun's future. On a trip to Loukuan, the
two friends went deep into the mountains and on to the Black Water
Valley, where they came to a chasm. A small wooden plank served as
a bridge across the chasm, with a deep current churning perhaps a
hundred feet below, enclosed by the straight rocks of the canyon. A
very courageous man himself, Chang Chen made a bow to Su and pro-
posed that he go over the wooden plank and leave a writing on the*
wall of the cliff on the opposite side, as tourists often do. Su Tungpo
declined, but Chang Chun went over the bridge alone with great non-
chalance. Gathering up his gown, he took hold of a suspended rope
and descended the sheer cliff to the bank of the stream, where he wrote
five big characters on the rock: "Su Shih and Chang Chun visited this
place." Then he returned in as leisurely a fashion as if nothing had
happened. Patting his friend on the back, Su Tungpo said: "One day
you are going to commit murder." "Why?" asked Chang Chun, and
Su Tungpo replied: "One who can take his own life in his hands can
also kill others." Whether Su Tungpo's prediction was correct or not,
we shall see later in the story.

Except for a brief period when he was aroused to great activity again
when Emperor Jentsung died, and was put in charge of supervising the
transportation of timber from the mountains of western Shensi to build
the Emperor's mausoleum, Su was not particularly happy with himself.
He grew very homesick. In the autumn of 1063 he wrote to Tseyu:
"When I first came, I learned to countersign the signatures, and nqw I
have learned even to preside at a law court. Every day I carry on the
daily duties, without asking what they are for. Before a scholar obtains
an office, he worries about obtaining it, and if after obtaining it he"
worries about losing it, what is to be the end of such a life ? Now I
feel like a tired traveller on a journey, coming upon a clear stream mid*
way. Though I cannot shake off the dust of the road, I would like to
have a dip in the stream. I was going away to the southern Brooks,
where I could hear the bird's song in spring, but official duties tied me
down, and now already autumn begins. Every day I receive rush orders
for timber, and as a magistrate I have to draft even more farm hands.
Who would dare to complain about service to the Emperor ? But the